A Movement That Lasts
The following is response to Josh Teis’ blog post “A Community of Castaways” (link)
When writing about something, it is often wrongly assumed we are writing against someone. I do not write against Josh Teis himself. I am for him, don’t want to discourage him, and want him to succeed. He is a gifted writer (did you read his rendition of David at the cave?!) an influential spiritual leader, and a genuine, passionate disciple of Jesus.
Then why respond? Because I believe conversation, contrasting views, and respectful persuasion are healthy. I do not attack Josh’s character or motive in any of my words, though my poor writing may come across that way. I desire only to address undergirding theologies and consequential implications in order to help the cause of Christ.
What is now known as Idea Day Network (IDN) is stunning. What started as a handful of conversations has become a movement — a movement that has deeply impacted many ministry leaders, especially inside the independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) world. I affirm greatly that God has used it to strengthen many, including myself, and I in no way want to minimize the victories it has had.
However, I do have recent concern that was intensified primarily in the article, “A Community of Castaways” and partially in the corresponding podcast regarding charter membership (link), both dated February 2, 2021.
The first part of the article is loaded with truth and passion. We certainly need to be a church that welcomes souls abused and broken by sin and this world. But it’s not what it says at first; it’s when the IDN movement is addressed. Things change there.
I share long-term, looking-down-the-road theological concerns that are aimed at helping to avoid historical pitfalls of movements at large.
Firstly, there is grave concern when a movement builds on emotion.
Emotion is powerfully persuasive. Elections are often won on emotional rhetoric more than political policy. But long-term dangers exist for such decisions.
The following has generalization, but the IFB movement must reckon with a shameful indictment. Many past, and even present, IFB churches have exuded a hateful, angry spirit. It’s not uncommon to hear a broad brush that preachers just yelled angrily at the positions and standards of others not like them. This certainly is not true of all IFB churches. But even if the Bible was preached, much was indeed eclipsed. Was it wrong for IFB to have that anger and hate? Yes! Did it work? Yes, overwhelmingly. But did it help? Absolutely not. What did an anger-based movement leave us with? People and ministries that only have meaning in maintaining the division and fight.
“A Community of Castaways’’ unknowingly substitutes the spirit of hatred with the spirit of hurt. Hurt, rejection, and isolation is the common unifier. The article identifies people of IDN by what has happened to them. They are castaways. No, not from sin and the world as one would expect but every one of them seemingly rejected by other Christian movements. This is disheartening.
But of far greater worry is that the article makes a direct appeal, calling from the problems of other ministries to the protections of IDN. This is very hard to write, but unfortunately it mirrors the hatred and anger above. Likewise, what will a hurt-based movement leave us with? Sadly, people and ministries that only have meaning in maintaining the feeling of hurt and being ostracized. (As a side, currently trending podcasts are building on this very dangerous premise.) Years down the road, the work won’t be marked by truth; it will only be remembered for hurt. All of this is deeply troubling.
On a personal note, I may be wrong, but it seems likely that Josh is being hurt by men and mentalities in IFB. He has done much good, and evil attitudes and attacks have no doubt made deep wounds. I am greatly sorry for that. I have been hurt by men as well, and I don’t want to do that to him. Our Shepherd knows the hurts. Josh’s graciousness has been a hallmark and I pray it continues.
His article persuasively reminds us that people have been hurt. They have been hurt by false ideologies, carnal philosophies, sinful attitudes, abusive parents, hurtful words and more. And Jesus absolutely commands us to help the hurting.
But hurt cannot be the basis or identity of a person, much less a church or movement. It is our nature to blame someone for our hurt. “No one showed me what it means to walk with Christ.” “I was trapped in legalism.” “I was spiritually abused.” ‘My parents didn’t love me.” Certainly, there is responsibility for a parent who abuses their children or for a ministry that was wrong. But if I live the rest of my life with abuse as my label or build my ministry upon how others wronged me, I will live life bound and will hurt others in time.
To the remaining branches of yesterday’s movements, “Don’t build on hate.” To the new movements, “Don’t build on hurt.” Hate didn’t work and neither will hurt. The emotion will overshadow Christ.
Secondly, there is some concern when a movement builds on ideas.
Admittedly, this second point is beyond the scope of “A Community of Castaways” and probably would be better for a different article. But I doubt I will write again on IDN and it does play into the overall concerning theme of this article as will be seen more developed in point three below.
A movement of ideas is a tough one to address. Firstly, because I have profited from many ideas from IDN. Secondly, because it can be misconstrued that I am narrow minded and unaccepting of different ideas. Quite the contrary. There is Scriptural safety in a multitude of counselors that aids in Biblically thinking through an issue. And, thirdly, because this addresses the essence of IDN and may be taken that I am opposed to it. I’m honestly not. I’m just looking down the road in desire for its success.
Qualifying aside, building a national and global movement on ideas has three risks.
First, just ideas, if truly ideas alone, has risk of pragmatism. Practical application has its place, but it cannot be centerstage, especially in Christianity. Right now this is not the case; but its development down the road is worth studying.
Second, there is risk of attraction to ideas. They invigorate, inspire, and excite, because they work. And with such abundance of ministry failure and discouragement, we crave what works. Again, IDN isn’t promulgating this. But it is behoving to keep in mind that if we feast on the transiency and high of ideas, we are in jeopardy of losing fruit that remains.
Third, there is risk of a theological melting pot. Ideas come from men, and men have varying worldviews, philosophies, and beliefs that determine those ideas. As IDN becomes an official network with a global/denominational initiative (see Idea Talks podcast), the number of men will expand and the supporting theology will have a propensity to broaden and thin. With current leadership at the helm, things won’t break down anytime soon. But down the road, protection from the logical hazard of theological ecumenicism may prove a challenge.
Creating ideas, enjoying ideas, and exchanging ideas is wonderful. But they must be kept secondary in the Christian mission. If ideas ever become primary, they too will overshadow Christ.
Thirdly, there is marked concern when a movement builds into another grouping.
Independent, Fundamental Baptist has its black eyes — too many to count. And Josh has been used greatly to address and correct many of these. The words independent, fundamental, and Baptist unfortunately have been associated with music, dress, attitude, and more. This has greatly conflated the issue. Fundamental shouldn’t be an attitude; it is adherence to the fundamentals of the faith in contrast to true liberalism. Baptist isn’t a personality, standard, or methodology; it’s an affirmation to a historical body of Biblical teachings in contrast to the teachings of other mainline church creeds.
The third word is independent. Independent should not be an attitude of divisiveness; it’s an Biblical aversion to denominational-like arrangement. It is the autonomy of the local church that defines the word independent. Historically, Baptist has never been a denomination. But we have had conventions, fellowships, and associations that have had a propensity to be denominational-like. Independent Baptists recognized this and pulled from SBC, GARBC, BBF and other similar structures. Their moves recognized the danger of hierarchy and external leadership no matter how well-meaning or how influential. Yes, it makes many things difficult, like missions endeavors and other collaborative efforts, but it has learned in hindsight that the tail always wags the dog.
What I fear is that with the last several podcasts, announcements, and recent blogs, Idea Day Network is now its own official grouping, inadvertently walking into the 2.0 version of the above structures. No, it’s not a classic convention, association, or fellowship with its formal lines, contracts, agreements, and governing council. It’s modernized, casual, and social-media friendly. IDN now has missional collaboration, church planting endeavors, membership, charter fees, governance, and other striking similarities. It’s not called by traditional names; it’s called a network. The article interestingly makes calls from other denominations, fellowships, memberships, or circles to a new, different network. This is a new look to an old problem.
Importantly, it’s not Josh or the men involved that are of primary concern. Many of them I often learn from. It’s the “network” itself. I don’t reject Southern Baptist men; I don’t join the convention. I don’t have an aversion to my 123 brethren, my XYZ brethren or my IDN brethren. I am hesitant about denominational resemblances and any modernized form of it. It’s why I will fellowship, but am not in a fellowship. I associate, but am not in any association. And it’s why I can network but cannot be in a network.
Alignments are nothing new. Ever since the Corinthian church, we Christians are prone to sects, drawn to personalities, and tend to allegiances. Understandably, some classings are unavoidable, and some necessary, especially for doctrinal clarity. But all are to be regarded with Biblical prudence.
In ecclesiastical autonomy, independent Baptists should step cautiously to avoid the mistakes of both local and national groupings. In time, they always seem to overshadow Christ.
Can a movement endure?
History and the Bible itself are replete with movements that have come and have gone. Curiously, some endure generations while others lose bearing quickly. It’s hard enough to look back at great movements and discern what went wrong. But what if we could discern it in the moment? What if we could help it to endure? To use the words of Gamaliel in Acts, if it is “of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” I want God to continue to use Josh Teis, the people of the IDN movement, and others who love Christ. And I sincerely pray for enduring ministry, deeply grounded on Truth.
Though we have emotions, we cannot build on emotions. Though we have ideas, we cannot build on ideas. And though we will be forced into some categories, we cannot not strive to be in them. If a movement is to last, emotions, ideas, and groupings will be a part, but they certainly can’t be the essence. Christ alone deserves that place.